Written by Dr. Randel Wing, Cape Coral Acupuncture Clinic
How old is Traditional Chinese Medicine? This is a loaded question. Most of us would say thousands of years. In truth, TCM began in 1965 when Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward (The Cultural Revolution) was in full swing. Mao, being one of world’s greatest megalomaniacs, burned all of the books, sent all of the intellects to the fields (or had them killed) and brought in a great many of the peasant (farmers) to become “barefoot doctors.”
By 1970, there were a half million of these “barefoot doctors” treating over a half billion Chinese people. From this, the Revolutionary Health Committee published a text book, “A Barefoot Doctors Manual” intended to equip the barefoot doctor with everything he needed to treat every condition. This book was the beginning of TCM. Today the text is called “Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion.” Thus, every modern student of Chinese Medicine studies Traditional Chinese Medicine (not the ancient medicine of pre-Mao.) This text (Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion) is the main text needed to pass the national boards required for licensure.
This ancient medicine is called Classical Chinese Medicine and is based upon the following eight branches and the basic principle of Chinese Medicine as stated in Chinese literature, if there is free flow of Qi and Blood, there is room for nothing to go wrong. Qi and Blood need to perform at peak performance to achieve optimum health. This flow can become blocked by negative thoughts and actions causing a flood of physical and mental health problems.
MEDITATION: This is considered to be the “great medicine.” The shamans of ancient China (8,000 years ago) believed that the world was formed from Wu Ji, a place of nothingness. From the Wu Ji came the Tai Qi, better known as Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang exist everywhere. One cannot exist without the other. One cannot have up without down, black without white or fluid without Yin turns to Yang; just as the sun rises (yang energy) the sun also sets (yin energy). The Chinese say that it is highly important that one spends at least fifteen minutes per day in this state of Wu Ji. This state is truly the state where healing takes place. How does one reach this state? Find a place where there are no distractions. Sit or lie down and start breathing. Listen only to your breath (in the nose, out the nose with the tip of your tongue placed at the roof of your mouth). It is impossible to think with this type of breathing. Try it and, you will achieve the greatest form of medicine
TAI Qi: Tai-Chi-Chun-Qigong, Chinese Medicine in motion emphasizes the development of internal energy and not muscle strength. This internal energy is achieved through the feeling of one’s breath (vital Qi) and then with this feeling of Vital Qi, and with more in-depth exercises, one develops the feeling of one’s internal alchemy. When the mind is fully centered and fully at peace, the possibility to change and to heal the body can be realized. Tai Qi is a ritual and, if practiced daily, can create a habit of living in the moment and “living in the flow.”
NUTRITION: Food is more important than herbs. Everything we feed ourselves must have good Qi. Nutrition means not only food, grains, water and air it also means everything-jobs, relationships and what one sees and reads. We must always feed our souls with this good Qi or, the flow becomes blocked and health issues will develop. All foods have energy except for foods that are processed. These foods are void of energy and therefore are not enriching our lives and do not support the “free flow.” Again, all nutritious foods have energy. They are cold, warm or hot. They have tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty or pungent. When eating it is necessary to eat balanced. By this I mean if you are cold do not eat cold foods (a jalapeño pepper from the freezer is still hot- a steamed cucumber remains cold. By balanced I mean eating with the concepts of Yin and Yang. I refer you to the Energetics of Food from Meridian Press.
BODY WORK: This includes massage, tui na, gua sha, yoga, palates and cranial sacral. Why? Body work moves the Qi and Blood assisting and enhancing the “free flow.”
COSMOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY: The Chinese have always believed in Heaven, Earth and Man (human) and the Five Elements (Earth-Metal-Water-Wood-Fire.) From Heaven- Earth-Man came the I Ching or the Book of Changes (Tuttle Publishing) and the concepts of Yin and Yang. From Five Element came an understanding of the relationship of man to nature and nature to man (Worsley Institute Of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture).
FENG SHUI: The Chinese system of balance of geometric space using the laws of heaven and earth to help improve life by receiving positive energy of positive Qi. Feng Shui means Wind and Water and is associated with the understanding of nature and good health. As mentioned previously everything that comes to you must have good energy or Qi. If your home or work environment is cluttered and the windows are dirty you know that you are bothered by this feeling. Remember, feelings that are either positive or negative can either create “free flow” or can cause stagnation. Thus, Feng Shui is about creating ones world with a sense of harmony and love.
HERBS: In Chinese Medicine, herbs are considered food and food is considered to be medicine. In herbal medicine, individual herbs are seldom used separately, but are combined using the principles of Yin and Yang and the herbs’ specific functions such as herbs that clear heat, drain damp and herbs that are cooling. How did the ancients perceive the use of herbs in formulations? The ancients used nature as their guidelines. By this I mean the “doctrine of signatures” which means that if a plant, animal or mineral looked like it might have medicinal value it might be used to heal. An example of this would be the flower of the foxglove plant. The flower looks like a heart and indeed this plant could be used to treat heart conditions and indeed, this plant is used in modern day medicine to produce digitalis a heart medication. For more information I refer you to Materia Medica by Dan Bensky.
ACUPUNCTURE: Acupuncture is defined as the insertion of very fine needles to affect the flow of Qi and Blood. Each acupuncture point along energetic pathways (meridians) has a specific function and each point has another point that is used for balance. Balance is always the goal and always returns to the basics of this medicine. “When you have free flow there room for nothing to go wrong”.
What do we do with this information in a clinical setting? Let’s look at the following case study:
A 52 year old female, let us call her Amy, presented with a chief complaint of asthma that had been diagnosed over 20 years ago. She presented with constipation, shortness of breath, poor sleep, general lethargy and a diet that consisted of high carbs, fruits, vegetables and dairy. Amy felt that her diet was healthy because every food item she consumed was organic. Over the years she had been prescribed many medications and she was really ready to try another approach. She felt that the medications were keeping the asthma under control but she felt unhealthy. Amy was also really stressed because she and her husband were paying $900 per month for health insurance because of her medical condition. I discussed with Amy a treatment plan that I thought would change her life. This plan included:
- Acupuncture treatments of two times per week to balance the energetics of the organ systems.
- A nutrition diet change that would eliminate the production of phlegm. This would include the elimination of all phlegm producing foods.
- An herbal formula called Clear Phlegm would be prescribed.
- Qigong breathing instructions. This breathing involves a three parted breath similar to yoga breathing. Once this is learned it can become a personal way of achieving “free flow” and a source of
- Weekly massage. Amy indicated that all she could afford was a massage once per month but she had a yoga tape and would start with that and that she really liked to walk and would become more diligent.
- We talked about her personal feng/shui and she told me that she loved her home, garden and that she and her husband were really close and supportive of each other.
- We also talked about what she expected. Amy wanted to achieve a sense of wellbeing, and I assured her that this was also my goal.
We began treatment that day and over the course of next two month Amy began seeing and feeling the benefits of her efforts. At the end and in consultation with her physician, Amy was able to eliminate her asthma medications. Over the next year she and her husband were able to clear the diagnosis of asthma and her insurance was reduced to under $300 per month. How great it this outcome.
This is Chinese Medicine. And, always back to basics. If one has free flow there is nothing to go wrong.